State of Elections

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Tag: Washington

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: Seattle’s counterintuitive response to too much money in politics

By: Anna Ellermeier

In November 2015, voters in Seattle approved Initiative 122, creating the first-ever Democracy Voucher Program. The program provides registered Seattle voters with four vouchers—or “democracy dollars”—each worth $25. Voters can then take these vouchers and give them to any candidate for city council, mayor, or city attorney who participates in the program.

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The idea for the initiative grew out of a concern about the role campaign financing plays in Seattle elections, and the sentiment that the rich, through their money, have a larger voice in politics. For example, a 2013 study revealed that half of the money raised for races in Seattle’s 2013 election cycle came from just 1,683 donors, which is about 0.3% of Seattle adults.

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WA: No Home, No Voice?

By: Anna Ellermeier

Homeless Seattleites face barriers to voting while the City Council decides the fate of tent cities and encampments

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Homeless individuals, in Seattle and across the county, face unique barriers to registering to vote and exercising their right to vote once registered. While a residential address is not required by the Washington State Constitution or by state statute, homeless Seattleites still face significant  challenges in this area.

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The Will of the People: Michigan’s Ballot Initiative to Allow By-Mail Voting

Alexander Hamilton once said, “A share in the sovereignty of the state, which is exercised by the citizens at large, in voting at elections is one of the most important rights of the subject, and in a republic ought to stand foremost in the estimation of the law.” In Michigan, the citizens have incredible power to voice their opinion and influence the sovereignty of their state. Through initiative, Michiganders may propose either a constitutional amendment, which does not require state legislative approval before being placed on the ballot, or state statutes, which must first be submitted to the state legislature for approval before being placed on the ballot. In order to participate in the initiative process, Michigan does not even require that the petitioner register with the state, but rather only requires that the petitioner report campaign contributions in excess of $500. However, petitioners may submit their proposal to the Bureau of Elections in order to greatly reduce the chance that formatting errors will prevent the proposal from being accepted.

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Ballot Initiatives for Marijuana Legalization Track Public Opinion

By Hannah Whiteker

Fans of direct democracy should be excited about the increased use of state ballot initiatives to legalize marijuana use. Direct democracy  allows citizens to enact and change laws, instead of electing representatives to make important decisions for them. One of the ways that the United States utilizes direct democracy is through state ballot initiatives. If a group of voters wants to get an initiative on the ballot to pass a law in their state (there is no initiative process for federal elections), the group must first get enough voters to sign a petition supporting the initiative. The number of signatures required varies by state. If the group satisfies the signature requirement, the initiative is put on the ballot for the next statewide election to be voted on by the people.

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Presidential primary suspended: Why doesn’t it matter?

by Eli Mackey

Washington State’s 2012 Presidential Primary is among the recent victims sacrificed at the altar of budgetary woes. The financial problems left in this listless economy granted no immunity to matters of seemingly great civic importance. Washington State has become the first in the nation to suspend its 2012 Presidential Primary election as a result of budgetary constraints.  Instead, Washington will rely on caucuses to determine which delegates to send to the convention. The caucuses, which measure the degree of support for a given candidate from a gathering of community members to determine the proportion of delegates, will be sponsored by the Republican and Democratic parties. The move is said to save nearly ten million dollars from Washington State’s budget.

While Secretary of State, Sam Reed, notes that this is a one-time resolution in response to the 5.2 billion dollar budget gap, he indicated that the primary has more than ten times the turnout than the caucuses. For example, in 2008 the primary drew approximately 1.4 million people while the caucuses included fewer than 100,000. This may be due in part to the fact that the primary system does not exclude overseas voters. Caucuses are typically attended by individuals closely affiliated with their respective parties. As a result, the caucus forum gives party activists greater voice in a candidate’s election than the common voter might otherwise have given a primary. The GOP’s 2012 caucus will be held on March 3, while the Democrats’, with no challenge to President Obama’s renomination, will be held on April 15.

Washington voters passed an initiative establishing the primary system in 1989 reflecting the desire of ordinary people to be more engaged in the presidential electoral process. However, the delegate allocation has traditionally been left to caucus results. Even with the primary, the Democratic Party issues its delegates based on caucus results, while the Republican Party has allocated half of their delegates based on primary results with the other half on caucus results. Thus, some have rightfully pointed out that the primary system in Washington is largely symbolic as its results have only a partial impact. Given Washington State’s financial posture and the reality that the primary system has been largely ceremonial since its institution, it seems that it was a no–brainer for this legislation to be signed into law by the Democratic governor, Christine Gregoire. Continue reading

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